Rings: Does Size Matter?

Rings: Does Size Matter?

“This diamond is just way too big for me,” said nobody who was given jewelry, ever. It’s a meme that gets a chuckle among jewelers and buyers alike. But is it really true? What are the actual limitations or guidelines for jewelry size? When it comes to stones, especially in rings, size is crucially important, but what size? 

Are there limits to size, taste-wise? I mean… It depends on what you can carry off. I’ve seen teeny little women wear huge rocks, or big old medallions that would make Michael Phelps  jealous. Sometimes, though, the results can be tragic: Is that a ship’s steering wheel strapped to your chest? How do you go to the bathroom with all that on. However, big can be just old-school glam. A client of mine is super thin, small, gracile, and she carries off a pair of 3 carat emerald stud earrings with total panache. She wears black, like a retired ninja, and those bright green headlamps just lift everything. Yet again, some of the most arresting pieces I’ve ever seen have tiny components, lots of sparkle, and a pop of color. On the airport shuttle, I saw a lady wearing a dainty but dope double strand opera length (see my article The Long and Short of it) necklace of teeny labradorite and turquoise beads with a bright blue pendant. She wore very simple clothes and that thing banged.

How Much is this Thing Gonna Cost?

Depending on the species of stone in your piece, it could mean the difference between paying $1000 and $500,000. So it is a game of numbers you need to pay attention to. The higher up you go on the clarity, cut, quality and provenance scale, the pricier gems get. And gold is, damn girl, it is expensive. The gold chains that rocked early seventies disco glam and the two-thousands’ rappers and mobsters flaunted will cost you 4 to 5 times what they paid, so don’t be shocked to discover that the cost of a ring is mainly in the metal that holds the stone.

Gold is How Much an Ounce???

Not everything that sparkles must be set in gold, and silver is a great bargain; hell, even platinum is cheaper than gold now. But that’s a story about karat:  how much gold is in your gold ring, or how much whatever is in your whatever. And you really have to decide what metal you prefer. Remember this, though: diamonds look yellower in gold, even if they are set in a white metal prong setting, the gold still gets picked up in the diamond. But hey, if that’s okay with you, or if you have a stone with some color (yes, diamonds come in lots of colors, even brown and gray–but hey, they still sparkle!) and you want the yellow tones, go for it.

What’s in that Ring? Metal Can Rock a Rock.

If you want a super clear, super sparkly diamond, then go with a platinum setting or a white gold. Please please please learn, though. White gold is not gold. Okay? It is an alloy of gold, just like 14k gold has other metals mixed into it. 24 karat gold is the only pure gold (and it is always yellow) but it is way too soft to set stones in. So most rings are alloys, and contain various other metals. White gold is just very low karat gold. In other words, there isn’t much gold in that gold. Which keeps it from tarnishing, but then again, it looks slightly more vanilla in color than a pure white metal. 99% of all white gold rings in the industry are plated with Palladium or Rhodium. These very white metals are great for rings, but the coating is a coating, and it can wear off. Then it has to be replated and it does cost money. But you get to know all this up front and then you can choose.

Not just Karat Purity but Size of Setting

A setting for any stone can be simple or byzantine, chunky or slender, engraved and bedecked or smooth and classic. It can be low and wrap around the finger and the stone, or it can climb skywards from your hand like horn on a unicorn. It can combine metals, contain stones like the center stone, assimilar or complementary to it, and it can add to or completely detract from your stones. It can be solid and sturdy, thin and brittle, or (shudder) hollow and cheap as all getup. The setting you choose will determine the style of the whole thing.

Carat is not a Root Vegetable.

Now for carat, which is a measure of stone weight which dates back to analog scales and little nibs of carob seeds used as a weight standard for measuring gemstones. Carat is one of the 4 C’s of stone buying and selling. It determines how much gemstone you have in your gemstone, and gives everyone who pays top dollar for it bragging rights.

The Bigger the Better? Kind of. Not really.

It’s true, size is a factor in price. Let’s face it, bigger diamonds and colored stones, especially if they’re clean, clear, well-cut, and from known mine locations will seriously ding your wallet. But if done with taste it can look magnificent. Manufactured with Shopping Network or Cruise Ship Jewelry abandon (and the abandonment of quality) they can bring tears to the eyes.

If your look is busy, do what Chanel did and take one thing off before you leave the house. She did this largely to avoid being engulfed by tentacle-like coils of fake pearls and gold plated chains like a little girl trick-or-treating with all the family costume jewelry weighing her pretty head to her knees. You can look in the mirror and, with a few easy steps, edit successfully.

But if big is your thing, make it count. I’d rather see a nice fat stone stand out in a simple setting than a so-so stone jacked up like the Empire State Building scaffolding, with scrolls and enough itty bitty diamonds wrapped around it to make a grill for your teeth. Honestly some of the engagement settings I see could literally poke an eye out. Or get caught on just about anything you happen to walk by. So get you a nice center stone, or two, or three. Or a simple pavee surround, or a halo setting (if you must), but keep it classy and don’t overdesign it.

Go dainty if you like. There is nothing at all disrepectable about some little pretty diamonds or colored stones in a sweet wrap-around-the-finger setting (like an eternity ring.) Or a tiny, pretty, flush-set stone winking out of a clean bezel set. There are scads of modern variations on this sort of look, many of them just as stunning as a single big honking stone.

Engagement Rings:  the Most Frightening Two Words in any Language

It’s the most important ring you’ll ever buy. It’ll last longer than your relationship. It’s the best way to ruin a perfectly great engagement. Face it. This stuff is scary. How much should I spend? How big? How clear? What shape? What style? What color? What metal? What the hell am I doing this for? These things can drive a person crazy. But if you read my previous paragraphs about any rings, you should know by now the first advice is:  learn. Learn what your partner likes and be ready to compromise. Maybe it’s a $100,000 monster. Maybe it’s a silicone band. Maybe it’s something even you would consider “dinky.” But it’s got to please you both. Start learning: about your partner, about stones, about silicone or titanium or carved dinosaur bone. Whatever it is, it’s got to keep you both smiling. And remember, neither of you gets to demand anything. Or, well, if you get an ultimatum, you know not to spend too much, because that thing isn’t likely to last. Work it out together, and find something you can both be proud of.

Rings aren’t about Rings, They’re about You.

Best thing about ring buying, whether it’s the one ring for the one partner, or just the makings of a really special day, ring design has changed big time. Colored stones of all sorts are totally in for engagement, and the range in price and quality of diamonds is huge. But stop looking at Pintrest already. There’s really only one way to know what you like:  get some rings on those fingers! God made retail jewelry stores for a reason, so you can go in and try on anything in the case. Be open, listen, learn. And who knows? You might just end up falling in love. With a ring, I mean. And you might even take it right on home. Whatever you do, learn all you can about what you are buying, and never ever be afraid or intimidated to ask questions. Good jewelers are teachers, and they are literally worth their weight in gold when it comes to choosing pieces that are right for you.